Common variation in the beta-carotene 15,15'-monooxygenase 1 gene affects circulating levels of carotenoids: a genome-wide association study

Am J Hum Genet. 2009 Feb;84(2):123-33. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2008.12.019. Epub 2009 Jan 29.


Low plasma levels of carotenoids and tocopherols are associated with increased risk of chronic disease and disability. Because dietary intake of these lipid-soluble antioxidant vitamins is only poorly correlated with plasma levels, we hypothesized that circulating carotenoids (vitamin A-related compounds) and tocopherols (vitamin E-related compounds) are affected by common genetic variation. By conducting a genome-wide association study in a sample of Italians (n = 1190), we identified novel common variants associated with circulating carotenoid levels and known lipid variants associated with alpha-tocopherol levels. Effects were replicated in the Women's Health and Aging Study (n = 615) and in the alpha-Tocopherol, beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) study (n = 2136). In meta-analyses including all three studies, the G allele at rs6564851, near the beta-carotene 15,15'-monooxygenase 1 (BCMO1) gene, was associated with higher beta-carotene (p = 1.6 x 10(-24)) and alpha-carotene (p = 0.0001) levels and lower lycopene (0.003), zeaxanthin (p = 1.3 x 10(-5)), and lutein (p = 7.3 x 10(-15)) levels, with effect sizes ranging from 0.10-0.28 SDs per allele. Interestingly, this genetic variant had no significant effect on plasma retinol (p > 0.05). The SNP rs12272004, in linkage disequilibrium with the S19W variant in the APOA5 gene, was associated with alpha-tocopherol (meta-analysis p = 7.8 x 10(-10)) levels, and this association was substantially weaker when we adjusted for triglyceride levels (p = 0.002). Our findings might shed light on the controversial relationship between lipid-soluble anti-oxidant nutrients and human health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carotenoids / blood*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genome, Human*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • alpha-Tocopherol / blood*
  • alpha-Tocopherol / metabolism
  • beta Carotene / blood
  • beta-Carotene 15,15'-Monooxygenase / genetics*
  • beta-Carotene 15,15'-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • beta Carotene
  • Carotenoids
  • BCO1 protein, human
  • beta-Carotene 15,15'-Monooxygenase
  • alpha-Tocopherol